Making “Mistakes” Redux

26 Oct

One of the first blogs I wrote that bears repeating…

In 1859, the Scottish author, Samuel Smiles wrote in Self Help, “We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery.”

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. We often learn more from our mistakes than from our successes. Think back to your childhood and teen years. How often did you ignore your parents’ admonishments and do something anyway. Learning the consequences of that mistake had so much more impact than your parents’ warning, and you learned by first-hand experience that perhaps you didn’t want to repeat that mistake in the future. And, you survived!

By the same token, I had a great aunt, a famous heart doctor, who always said that it was more important to publish your failures than your successes. It kept others from wasting a lot of energy, time, and money going down that same particular path. Instead, other researchers could try a different approach, or perhaps a variation on the scenario that didn’t work, and in doing so, might make some “mistakes” that resulted in some great discoveries.

And so it is with photography. If we are afraid of making mistakes, we can’t grow as photographers. Cameras these days save us from ourselves if we allow them to. I rarely set my camera to A (automatic).

I was lucky to grow up shooting film that came with a little sheet of minutely folded paper that had that exposure guide chart. Some of you may remember it. Light sand and snow, bright sunlight, cloudy, shade, open shade. It gave the f/stops at a shutter speed of 1/125 for each situation. I may have forgotten the exact labels, but that is close enough.

Manual for Brownie Hawkeye CameraEven before those days, when I was eight, I got my first camera, a Brownie Hawkeye Flash Model that took 620 film, the precursor to 120 film that came on a slightly thicker spool. 120 wasn’t introduced until 1965. The adjustments on my Brownie were minimal, but when I read the manual, I saw that I could do a longer exposure. I experimented with that, and came out with some interesting results. I wish I had the negatives from those days, but in the myriad of moves I have gone through, they disappeared. Probably thrown out by my mother who was obsessive-compulsive about being tidy.

I also saw in the manual a section on mistakes, one of which was an example of double exposures caused by not advancing the film between shots.

“Hmmm,” I thought, “That could be really neat.”

And so, armed with the newfound knowledge of how to not do double exposures, I did them on purpose. The “mistake” became discovery with some pleasing results.

Kodak Retina IIcMy next camera I bought two or three years later with the help of my dad. I had to earn half the money, $50, which was a lot for an eleven-year-old, and he would come up with the rest. I think he saw it as an easy way for him not to have to mow the lawn! It was the German Kodak, marvelously compact Retina IIc with a Schneider Xenon-C 50mm f/2.0 lens that was really superb in such a modest camera. That camera saw a lot of miles, many locations, and produced some really wonderful photographs and learning experiences. I used that camera for probably 25 years before I switched to my first SLR.

This is where the guide chart for exposures came in for me. I had a little 3”x5” notebook, something I recommend to our workshop participants to this day, in which I recorded date, frame number, conditions (light sand or snow, cloudy, etc.), speed, and f/stop. These days, with digital cameras, everything but the conditions is found in the camera metadata, but the exercise is still valuable for finding out what works best for you and your vision of how you want to make (note I don’t say “take”) a photograph.

Sometimes, you just don’t have time to fire off a lot of shots to capture a moment in time, so it’s best to experiment in those situations. Instead, experiment when the results don’t matter, and discover if some of those “mistakes” are actually techniques you want to use in the future.

So, experiment with different ways of approaching your photography.  Who knows what you might discover!

For more information on our workshops, go to Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.

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Motion in Stills, 2014

18 Oct

…or was that Stills in Motion …

Before we start, we want to thank all those who joined us during the past 11 weeks and some 11,000 miles on the road. We had great groups, and participants laughed until their cheeks and bellies hurt — and so did ours — while making some wonderful photographs. They learned some of the techniques illustrated below.

Open up most photo magazines these days, and usually all you see is crystal-sharp (and often very boring), same-old, grand landscapes. But how do we evoke motion in a land that is not static?

There are several approaches.

The first, and perhaps most common, is to slow down water to give it that milky effect.

In New England recently, I stood in the stream to get the shot I wanted of the waterfall, and with a slow shutter, I captured the feathery exit of the water.© 2014 Margo Taussig Pinkerton. All Rights Reserved.  For usage and fees, contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278.  919-643-3036 before 9 pm east coast USA, GMT-5, or by e-mail at TBC (at) BCphotoadventures (dot) com.

On the Outer Banks, where we return in a week, Arnie photographed a lone visitor standing in the surf, the water swirling around her feet.© 2014 Arnold Zann. All Rights Reserved.  For usage and fees, contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278.  919-643-3036 before 9 pm east coast USA, GMT-5, or by e-mail at Arnie (at) BCphotoadventures (dot) com.

On many a crisp autumn morning in Colorado, the fog rises out of the valleys. The wispy patches of fog, along with the birds, their wings at different angles, created a sense of time passing and changing. Here, it is not a slow shutter speed, rather the choice of subject matter and timing that is critical.© 2014 Margo Taussig Pinkerton. All Rights Reserved.  For usage and fees, contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278.  919-643-3036 before 9 pm east coast USA, GMT-5, or by e-mail at TBC (at) BCphotoadventures (dot) com.

In the early morning on the coast of Maine, fishermen skull or paddle their dinghies out to the fishing boats. Here, Arnie allowed the Continue reading 

Same Place, Cuba 2014

11 Oct

… or Same Place, Different View …

We still have a few workshops to go for 2014, but we are also looking to next year.

There is New Orleans, of course, and Carnivale in Venice (sold out in a day and a half), and following that, our fourth tour in Cuba.

We love Cuba. The people are so friendly, and the textures and colors of the country wonderful.

As we work on final arrangements for our 2015 trip, I was reviewing 2014.

One of the things we always put on our schedule is a visit to a dance troupe. This year, it was Pro Danza, a famous company that has toured internationally. We got to attend a rehearsal and meet the Grand Maitre de Ballet, Laura Alonso, a charming lady who pushed her dancers to do better than they thought they could do. As long as we did not get in her line of sight, we were allowed to move around and photograph different aspects of the program.

Arnie found a dancer stretching with another in the background doing the same. I was entranced by the legs of one dancer as she performed.© 2014 Arnold Zann. All Rights Reserved.  For usage and fees, contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278.  919-643-3036 before 9 pm east coast USA, GMT-5, or by e-mail at Arnie (at) BCphotoadventures (dot) com.© 2014 Margo Taussig Pinkerton. All Rights Reserved.  For usage and fees, contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278.  919-643-3036 before 9 pm east coast USA, GMT-5, or by e-mail at TBC (at) BCphotoadventures (dot) com.

The streets of La Habana teem with life. Fruit carts abound. Cars and people vie for space. People chat. Delivery trucks and carts pass by. And children and teens play in streets that are less busy. While these two locations were not exactly the same, they were very close.© 2014 Arnold Zann. All Rights Reserved.  For usage and fees, contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278.  919-643-3036 before 9 pm east coast USA, GMT-5, or by e-mail at Arnie (at) BCphotoadventures (dot) com.© 2014 Margo Taussig Pinkerton. All Rights Reserved.  For usage and fees, contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278.  919-643-3036 before 9 pm east coast USA, GMT-5, or by e-mail at TBC (at) BCphotoadventures (dot) com.

Markets are always fun to visit. The array of fruits, vegetables, and meats is colorful, and the hawking of them is loud and engaging. Both Arnie and I found a Continue reading